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Golf's Invaluable Missing Link: Job Descriptions

Jim McLoughlin


To my continuing surprise, a vast majority of the country's golf course superintendents are working today without a definitive job description - not realizing that working without a comprehensive job description is a high-risk venture. This is because superintendents' jobs remain undefined without a job description, which means they can be held accountable and become job vulnerable for work they were never assigned; i.e.- a problem that surfaces mostly when either the position of green committee chairman, or general manager changes. 


Unfortunately, few superintendents realize that a mutually agreed to comprehensive job description best ensures job stability because it defines accountability for both the employer and employee.


For obvious reasons, superintendents should attach their mutually agreed to job descriptions to their employment agreements (or to the minutes of the meeting where the job description was mutually approved if there is no written agreement) along with a statement that their job descriptions will be mutually reviewed annually and amended when necessary. 


How Do Job Descriptions Impact The Job Application Rate?


Historically, a 'strong' job description discourages most middle of the road candidates from applying for a job because they know they will not qualify and will be rejected - while at the same time always attracting enough (+/- 10) well-qualified candidates. Conversely, a loosely written job description is too often seen as an open invitation for average performing applicants and below that can attract up to 100+ such candidates - but none from the well-qualified ranks. The reasons for these patterns should be self-explanatory.


Generally, search committees do not have the experience to realize that it is better to have 8 out of a total of 10 competent job applicants in hand versus having up to 100 mediocre applicants that are hardly distinguishable from each other and where luck must play a part in selecting a workable candidate. Consequently - the never ending cry - the better job applicants frequently are not hired.


Ground Rules


If a superintendent applies for a job and asks to see an applicable job description (as all candidates should)  for the vacant position and learns that either there is no job description, or only a weak one, after completing his due diligence, the candidate should draft his own definitive job description and submit it with his plan of action to the search committee.


By so doing, a job applicant can pre-empt a field of candidates and win the job outright. Once hired, the mutually agreed to job description would be incorporated into the employment contract, if there is one, or into the minutes of the committee meeting where the job description was approved.


To help draft an effective job description when no models are available, see the two diverse 'live' job descriptions (Word files linked below) that have effectively served to secure superintendents' jobs:


  • A short form job description that can be expanded in length.
  • A long form totally comprehensive job description.


Clearly, the long form job description includes far more details than are needed for the more modest golf course maintenance operations. Accordingly, superintendents or candidates can amend and/or excerpt those elements within this long form that are applicable to their job applications and incorporate them into their personal job description drafts.


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